06 January 2019

Race Fantasy And The Old West

I've repeatedly toyed with making a world set about 1875 or so in the American Old West with fantasy races and magic.

This is where the elf-human-orc genetic discussion came from.

Originally I was trying to shoe-horn the fantasy races into historic slots, with orcs taking the role of blacks...

Yeah, I spotted how bad that looked as fast as you did.

I've made an orc character from a world where orcs were the African slaves in The South, and The Confederate States of America won.  That's William Jenkins.

It was the placing of other races where everything fell apart.  Orcs naturally fit the role of the hated race that everyone hated.  But what if I made Jews elves?  Scots seem to fit dwarves well, when was the last time a dwarf wasn't depicted as Scottish?  Does that make Germans gnomes?

The shoe horning wasn't working.

But what if humanity was Elf-Human-Orc?  I need to find a place for dwarves, gnomes and halflings.  Maybe for goblins too.

Inserting dwarves into some cultural memes works well.  The English oppression of their Celtic people and their gravitation to mining lends itself to the Scots/Welsh/Irish miner being a dwarf.  Other Celts could be gnomes.

The mechanically inclined and inventive dwarves and gnomes mesh well with how many inventions stem from Scots too.

The scary part of using GURPS Fantasy races for cultural stereotypes is the Jews = goblins thing.  Goblins are the racially inclined traders in both Fantasy Folk and Banestorm.  That meshes with the stereotype of Jew, but...  It's a bit on the nose...  Especially as it meshes well with Arab traders too.

But my Gohds the racist implications...

It gets to be very difficult to pull off.

Not that there's anything in the racial template that's particularly insulting to Jews or Arabs, except for their physical description that plays like a Nazi newspaper editorial cartoon description.


Best to make religion independent of race.  And it's fairly easy to fit goblins into non-Jewish templates by putting them at the head of other famous trading ventures.  East India Company being goblin helmed would do it.  The Jewish propensity to head for education, science and medicine doesn't match well with the goblin template either.

Then, for The Old West... who are the Chinese?  In the orc=African idea I toyed with making them all elves.  Chinese, after all, are sometimes referred to as celestials.

But who will play the Indians?

Thus was the elf-human-orc Humanity idea was born.  These three races are most of the population with the others taking the place where especially appropriate to individual example.

One thing that clings is associating elf with royalty.  You see a poor, indentured or enslaved elf; you're looking at someone who's been dispossessed.  Insert dark-elf template for 31 points, Wink.

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that various native tribes could easily be orcs or elves. The noble savage of North America? Elves, especially wood elves if GURPS has that distinction, compared to High and Grey Elves from Europe. Fits in with the whole stereotype of the might eco-warrior. Living in harmony with nature. All that yada yada stuff.

    Orcs? Well... they fit the Central and South American 'natives.' Nothing says Orc like cutting the heart out of someone for religious purposes. And fits in with the whole totem animal thing the various Incan, Aztec and Mayan groups had. And Orcs do have quite complex societies according to some authors. Though half-orc Mesticas suddenly becomes that racial thingymabobber again, at least for some people.

    Gnomes from Germany and Switzerland. Yep. Along with humans and Grey Elves.

    High Elves come from France, along with Humans. Which would make England full of High-Elves, Half-High Elves and Humans.

    Dwarves from Norway and Scandinavia (and maybe Northern Germany), along with Humans and more Grey Elves (which fit into the Norwegian/Scandinavian/Icelandish style elf better than wood elves or high elves.)

    Welsh and Cornwall miners may be... Picts, which could be hobbits, maybe. Lots of 'Little People' stories from those areas. And humans. And maybe some ancient wood-elf strains (like from the movie with Channing Tatum "The Eagle.")

    Who are the slaves? Well, no matter who you make the ex-slaves, someone will get butt-hurt. So just choose. Could be actual Blacks, as no-one oppresses humans like other humans. Or, just losers in various wars and skirmishes. It's not like the Indians didn't have and take slaves, treating them from worse than 'we' treated blacks to as well or better than the 'Viking' pattern of slavery.

    Chinese? Hmmm. Humans? Half elves? A whole 'race' of half-elves and humans who value their half-elvish purity above all (seriously, the Han really do, as a group, have an issue with looking down at us lesser humans...) Would allow for the whole celestial thingy (the more elvish of them) while explaining easily the use of them (the more human of them) as cheap labor, maybe. Chinese society was, and is still, very class driven.

    Cool setting. Lots of weirdness to play with.

    And don't forget the Giants. Lots of Giant skeletons have been found all along the Eastern Seaboard inward to the Mississippi. Would make sense that Giants would have retreated westwardly as humanity pushed westward.


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